Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Inquirer’

Authors Who Worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

What a legacy.  Courtesy of Jim intended for the Inquirer and Daily News Alumni Network (but my blog is the only way to include the entire list.)

So proud to have been a part of this crew.

— Bob Frump Sept. 21.

NOTE:  If you have corrections or additions, please add them in comments, and I will forward on to Jim for consideration.

The Philadelphia Daily News deserves its own list with some huge books via Pete Dexter, Laker-Ruderman.

Compiled by Jim Remsen

(Jim Remsen says: The big ad in the NYTimes Book Section for Mark Bowden’s new ‘Hue 1968’ got me thinking about our newsroom colleagues past and present who’ve written books. That got me wondering how many there actually are, which led me to compile this gang listing over the past few days. It’s essentially a cut-and-paste job from Amazon. No doubt some worthy authors are still omitted—because they wrote under pseudonyms, because their work isn’t listed on Amazon or, most likely, because I simply forgot or overlooked them. Feel free to add or correct (as Linda Hasert already has done, above), with my apologies. I did not go back to the pre-Roberts era so Joe McGinniss, for instance, is not included. Nor did I include Daily News folks and thus Dexter, Laker-Ruderman,  etc., are not listed. I begin the compilation with works that inarguably hit the big time (led to movies, major sales, major awards, major impact). After the first 10-15 entries, the list becomes a grab-bag with no judgment or ranking implied. Please read it with that in mind. If someone wants to alphabetize the list to avoid hard feelings, be my guest.)

 

MARK BOWDENHue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam; Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War; Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam; Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw; The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden; Worm: The First Digital World War; Bringing the Heat; The Three Battles of Wanat: And Other True Stories; Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Empire; Road Work: Among Tyrants, Beasts, Heroes, and Rogues

JENNIFER WEINER Good in Bed; Fly Away Home; The Next Best Thing; Good Men; Then Came You; The Littlest Bigfoot; Certain Girls; Goodnight Nobody; All Fall Down; Who Do You Love; Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing

GENE ROBERTS & HANK KLIBANOFFThe Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

DON BARLETT & JIM STEELEAmerica: What Went Wrong?; America: Who Stole the Dream? ; The Betrayal of the American Dream; Forevermore, Nuclear Waste in America; Howard Hughes – His Life and Madness; Critical Condition How Health Care in America Became Big Business–and Bad Medicine; The Great American Tax Dodge: How Spiraling Fraud and Avoidance Are Killing Fairness, Destroying the Income Tax, and Costing You

TIM WEINERLegacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA; Enemies: A History of the FBI; One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon; Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget; Betrayal:: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy

BUZZ BISSINGERFriday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream; A Prayer for the City; Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son; After Friday Night Lights: When the Games Ended, Real Life Began. An Unlikely Love Story; Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager; LeBron’s Dream Team: How Four Friends and I Brought a Championship Home

STEVE LOPEZThe Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music; Third and Indiana; The Sunday Macaroni Club; Land of Giants: Where No Good Deed Goes Unpunished ; Dreams and Schemes: My Decade of Fun in the Sun

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON – The Making of Donald Trump; Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill); Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich–and Cheat Everybody Else; Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality; The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind

PEGGY ANDERSONNurse; Children’s Hospital; The Daughters

JOHN GROGANMarley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog ; Marley: A Dog Like No Other; The Longest Trip Home: A Memoir; Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog; (and 8 Marley early readers)

AMANDA BENNETTThe Cost of Hope: A Memoir; The Death of the Organization Man; The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness; The Man Who Stayed Behind; In Memoriam: A Practical Guide to Planning a Memorial Service

DAN BIDDLE & MURRAY DUBINTasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America

MURRAY DUBINSouth Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories, and the Melrose Diner; The Official Book of Wallyball

GENE FOREMANThe Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Digital Age

MIKE SOKOLOVEDrama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater; Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose; Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports; The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw

THOMAS HINEPopuluxe; I Want That!: How We All Became Shoppers; The Total Package: The Secret History and Hidden Meanings of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Other Persuasive Containers; The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager; Facing Tomorrow: What the Future Has Been, What the Future Can Be; The Eames Lounge Chair: An Icon of Modern Design; The Great Funk: Styles of the Shaggy, Sexy, Shameless 1970s

ROD NORDLANDThe Lovers: Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing

SUSAN Q. STRANAHANSusquehanna, River of Dreams

DAVID ZUCCHINO – Myth of the Welfare Queen: A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist’s Portrait of Women on the Line; Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad

RICHARD BEN CRAMERWhat It Takes: The Way to the White House

JANE EISNERTaking Back the Vote: Getting American Youth Involved in Our Democracy; Who Are We Now? Interpreting the Pew Study on Jewish Identity in America Today

DONALD DRAKEMedical School: The dramatic true story of how four years turned a class of raw students into qualified physicians

MARIAN UHLMAN & DONALD DRAKE – Hard Choices: Health Care at What Cost?

DOREEN CARVAJALThe Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition

JENNIFER LINShanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family; Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running

HANK KLIBANOFF – Assassins, Eccentrics, Politicians, and Other Persons of Interest: Fifty Pieces from the Road

MICHAEL BAMBERGERMen in Green; To the Linksland: A Golfing Adventure; This Golfing Life; Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School; The Green Road Home: Adventures and Misadventures as a Caddie on the PGA Tour; Every Shot I Take

STEVEN REA – Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling with the Stars; Hollywood Café: Coffee with the Stars

GAIUTRA BAHADURCoolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture

BOB ZAUSNERDanger Above: A Tragic Death, An Epic Courtroom Battle; Dying to Have a Baby: A True Story; Bad Brake: Ford Trucks, Deadly When Parked; Two Boys, Divided by Fortune, United by Tragedy: A True Story of the Pursuit of Justice

DOUG CAMPBELL – The Sea’s Bitter Harvest: Thirteen Deadly Days on the North Atlantic; Eight Survived: The Harrowing Story Of The USS Flier And The Only Downed World War Ii Submariners To Survive And Evade Capture

TOM INFIELDFifty Years After the War: The People Who Were There Recall the Major Events of World War II

PETER BINZEN – The Wreck of the Penn Central; The Cop Who Would Be King : The Honorable Frank Rizzo; Whitetown, U. S. A.; Richardson Dilworth: Last of the Bare Knuckled Aristocrats; Nearly Everybody Read It: Snapshots of the Philadelphia Bulletin

STEVE TWOMEYCountdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack

VERNON LOEBAll In: The Education of General David Petraeus; Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story; King’s Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage, and Diplomacy in the Middle East

BOB FERNANDEZThe Chocolate Trust: Deception, Indenture and Secrets at the $12 Billion Milton Hershey School

AL LUBRANOLimbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams

ARLENE MORGANThe Authentic Voice: The Best Reporting on Race and Ethnicity

LOU URENECKThe Great Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide; Smyrna, September 1922: The American Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide; Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska; Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream, and Five Acres in Maine

LISA TRACY – Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time; The Gradual Vegetarian: The Step-by-Step Way to Start Eating the Right Stuff Today

TOM MOON – 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die

DOTTY BROWNBoathouse Row: Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing

MIKE VITEZ – The Road Back; Great Americans: Stories of Resilience and Joy in Everyday Life; Final Choices: Seeking the Good Death

TOM GRALISH & MIKE VITEZRocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps

GIL GAULBillion-Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football; Giant Steps: The Story of One Boy’s Struggle to Walk

NEILL BOROWSKI & GIL GAUL Free Ride: The Tax-Exempt Economy

TONY WOOD & GIL GAULCrisis on the Coast: The Risky Development of America’s Shores

GEORGE ANASTASIABlood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob–The Mafia’s Most Violent Family; The Last Gangster; The Goodfella Tapes; Gotti’s Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia; Mob Files: Mobsters, Molls and Murder; Mob Father: The Story of a Wife and a Son Caught in the Web of the Mafia; The Summer Wind : Thomas Capano and the Murder of Anne Marie Fahey; Philadelphia True Noir: Kingpins, Hustles and Homicides

GEORGE ANASTASIA & GLEN MACNOW – The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Gangster Films of All Time

RALPH CIPRIANOThe Hit Man: A True Story of Murder, Redemption and the Melrose Diner; Courtroom Cowboy: The Life of Legal Trailblazer Jim Beasley; Garagista A Home Wine Making Journal

MARY WALTONA Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot; Car: A Drama of the American Workplace; The Deming Management Method; Deming Management at Work

JOE DiSTEFANOComcasted: How Ralph and Brian Roberts Took Over America’s TV, One Deal at a Time

KAREN E. QUINONES MILLERAn Angry-Ass Black Woman; Hittin’ It Out the Park; Satin Doll; Ida B.; Harlem Godfather: The Rap on my Husband, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson

FRANK FITZPATRICKThe Lion In Autumn: A Season with Joe Paterno and Penn State Football; The Perfect Game: How Villanova’s Shocking 1985 Upset of Mighty Georgetown Changed the Landscape of College Hoops Forever; Pride of the Lions: The Biography of Joe Paterno; And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Basketball Game That Changed American Sports; You Can’t Lose ‘Em All: The Year the Phillies Finally Won the World Series

TANYA BARRIENTOSFrontera Street; Family Resemblance

SHARON WOHLMUTHMothers and Daughters; Sisters; Best Friends; A Day in the Life of the American Woman: How We See Ourselves

CRAIG STOCKInvesting During Retirement

FEN MONTAIGNE – Broken Empire : After the Fall of the USSR; Reeling In Russia: An American Angler In Russia; The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West; Surviving Galeras; Medicine by Design: The Practice and Promise of Biomedical Engineering; Fraser’s Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica

CARRIE RICKEYDoris Day Biography; They Went Thataway: Redefining Film Genres; Batiste Madalena : Poster Paintings for the Movies; The 1984 Show

JULIA CASSBlack in Selma: The Uncommon Life of J.L. Chestnut, Jr.

AKWELI PARKERAutomatic Emails: Polite Yet Potent Communications for Getting Stuff Done at Work, at Home, and in Your Community; 41 1/4 Creative Content Ideas: Ingeniously Clever Small Business Marketing Moves for Capturing More Clicks, Clients, and Cash; 31 Ways to Green Your Business (And Boost Your Bottom Line): A Practical Guide to Substantial Savings through Sustainable Business Practices

PAT RACCIO HUGHES – Five 4ths of July; The Breaker Boys; Guerrilla Season; Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War; Open Ice

SAL PAOLANTONIOFrank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America; The Paolantonio Report: The Most Overrated and Underrated Teams, Players, Coaches, and Moments in NFL History; How Football Explains America

GWEN FLORIOMontana; Reservations; Dakota; Disgraced

BILL LYONDeadlines and Overtimes: Collected Writings on Sports and Life; When the Clock Runs Out: 20 NFL Greats Share Their Stories of Hardship and Triumph

KEVIN FERRIS – Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals That Help Them Heal; Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed

JOANNE McLAUGHLINNever Before Noon; Peppina’s Sweetheart; Grass and Granite

CARLIN ROMANOAmerica the Philosophical

CLARK DELEONPennsylvania Curiosities; America’s First Zoostory and Other Philadelphia Stories: 125 Years at the Philadelphia Zoo

JOHN TIMPANE – Poetry For Dummies; Writing Worth Reading: The Critical Process; Writing Worth Reading: A Practical Guide; It Could Be Verse: Anybody’s Guide to Poetry

SERGIO BUSTOSMiami’s Criminal Past: Uncovered

CHRIS SATULLO – Crime and Punishment: Is Justice Being Served?; A Christmas Quartet

SUSAN FITZGERALDLetting Go with Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century; The Everything College Survival Book: All You Need to Get the Most out of College Life; Who Moved My Laundry?: A day-by-day guide to your first year of college life

SUSAN FITZGERALD, MARK JAFFE & DONALD DRAKEHard Choices: Health Care at What Cost?

MARK JAFFE – The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science; And No Birds Sing: The Story of an Ecological Disaster in a Tropical Paradise

NATALIE POMPILIO – Walking Philadelphia: 30 Tours Exploring Art, Architecture, History, and Little-Known Gems

MEL GREENBERGHoops Heaven: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

JIM REMSENThe Intermarriage Handbook: A Guide for Christians and Jews; Visions of Teaoga; Embattled Freedom: Chronicle of a Fugitive Slave Haven in the Wary North

INGA SAFFRONCaviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World’s Most Coveted Delicacy

JOHN HILFERTYMoonlight in Vermont; The Mad River Valley; Skiing in the Mad River Valley; Growing Up in World War II

MARILYN MARTERDining-In Philadelphia

REGINA SCHRAMBLINGSquash: A Country Garden Cookbook

BOB FRUMP – Two Tankers Down: The Greatest Small-Boat Rescue In U.S. Coast Guard History; Until the Sea Shall Free Them: Life, Death, and Survival in the Merchant Marine; I Cover the Waterfront: Non-Fiction Articles, 1980-2008, Maritime Writer Robert R. Frump; The Man-Eaters of Eden: Life and Death in Kruger National Park; The Spirit Lions: Darting Man-eaters in the Selous

JEFF GAMMAGEChina Ghosts: My Daughter’s Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood

ED COLIMORE Eyewitness Reports: The Inquirer’s Live Coverage of the American Civil War; The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Guide to Historic Philadelphia

STEPHAN SALISBURYMohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland

DENISE COWIEThe Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes

DON GROFFBest Beach Vacations: The Mid-Atlantic from New York to Washington Dc (Frommer’s Best Beach Vacations East Coast from New York to Washington DC)

HOWARD GOODMANDisoriented: Two Strange Years in China as Unexpected Expats

MONICA YANT KINNEYPhiladelphia Murals & Stories They Tell

MIKE MISSANELLI – The Perfect Season: How Penn State Came to Stop a Hurricane and Win a National Football Championship; The Transaction: Surviving Professional Baseball Through 16 Years and 36 Waives, Recalls, Trades, and Releases

CRAIG LABANSavoring Philadelphia; The Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Guide

NATE GORENSTEINTommy Gun Winter: Jewish Gangsters, a Preacher’s Daughter, and the Trial That Shocked 1930s Boston

FAYE FLAMThe Score: The Science of the Male Sex Drive

MIKE SIELSKI – Fading Echoes: A True Story of Rivalry and Brotherhood from the Football Field to the Fields of Honor

BOB SHEASLEYHome to Roost: A Backyard Farmer Chases Chickens Through the Ages

AVERY ROME – Millennium Philadelphia

DAVE CALDWELL – New York Times Speed Show: How NASCAR Won the Heart of America

MICHAEL  E. RUANE – Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation; 1787: inventing America: A day-by-day account of the Constitutional Convention

 

Linda Hasert adds these names:

 

MAYA RAOWild Frontier: Chasing the American Dream in the Bakken Oil Fields (due out April 2018)

JOE LOGAN – Playing A Round: The Guide to Philadelphia-Area Golf Courses

KEN BOOKMANWhile the Pasta Cooks: 100 Sauces So Easy You Can Prepare the Sauce in the Time It Takes to Cook the Pasta; 2500 Recipes: Everyday to Extraordinary; One-Pot Chocolate Desserts: 50 Recipes for Making Chocolate Desserts from Scratch Using a Pot, A Spoon, and a Pan; One Pot Cakes: 60 Recipes for Cakes from Scratch Using a Pot, a Spoon, and a Pan; One-Pot Cookies: 60 Recipes for Making Cookies from Scratch Using a Pot, a Spoon, and a Pan; Dinner’s Ready: Turn a Single Meal Into a Week of Dinners  

MATT KATZAmerican Governor: Chris Christie’s Bridge to Redemption

ROSE CIOTTACruel Games: A Brilliant Professor, A Loving Mother, A Brutal Murder

DESMOND RYANHelix; Deadlines

JEFF WEINSTEINLearning to Eat

BILL ECENBARGERKids for Cash: Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme; Pennsylvania Stories–Well Told; Walkin’ the Line: A Journey from Past to Present Along the Mason-Dixon;  Making Ideas Matter: My Life as a Policy Entrepreneur; Glory by the Wayside: The Old Churches of Hawaii

BARBARA DEMICK – Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea; Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood; Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street; Eat the Buddha (due out March 2018)

MIKE CAPUZZOThe Murder Room: In Which Three of the Greatest Detectives Use Forensic Science to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases; Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence; Wild Things

GLEN MACNOW –  The Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists; Sports Great Allen Iverson; Sports Great Kobe Bryant; Sports Great Troy Aikman; Sports Great Charles Barkley; Sports Great Tiger Woods; Sports Great Kevin Garnett; Sports Great Alex Rodriguez; Sports Great Chris Webber; Sports Great Jeff Gordon; Cal Ripken, Jr.: Hall of Fame Baseball Superstar; Deion Sanders: Hall of Fame Football Superstar; Shaquille O’Neal: Star Center; David Robinson Star Center; Ken Griffey, Jr., Star Outfielder; The Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Team; The Philadelphia 76ers Basketball Team

ANTHONY GARGANO – NFL Unplugged: The Brutal, Brilliant World of Professional Football; A Sunday Pilgrimage: Six Days, Several Prayers and the Super Bowl; War in the Trenches: Blood, Pain, and Profanity: Inside Life in the NFL

ANTHONY GARGANO & GLEN MACNOW The Great Philadelphia Fan Book

ANGELO CATALDI & GLEN MACNOW – The Great Philadelphia Sports Debate

RAY DIDINGERThe New Eagles Encyclopedia; One Last Read: The Collected Works of the World’s Slowest Sportswriter; On God’s Squad: The Story of Norm Evans; Wil the Thrill: The Untold Story of Wilbert Montgomery; The Super Bowl: Celebrating a Quarter-Century of America’s Greatest Game; Football America: Celebrating Our National Passion; Pittsburgh Steelers; The Professionals: Portraits of NFL Stars by America’s Most Prominent Illustrators

RAY DIDINGER & GLEN MACNOWThe Ultimate Book of Sports Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Sports Films of All Time

SAM CARCHIDI – Standing Tall: The Kevin Everett Story; If These Walls Could Talk: Philadelphia Flyers; Miracle in the Making: The Adam Taliaferro Story;

SAM CARCHIDI & RAY DIDINGERBill Campbell: The Voice of Philadelphia Sports

KATE FAGAN What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen; The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians

C.S. MANEGOLDTen Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North; In Glory’s Shadow: Shannon Faulkner, The Citadel, and a Changing America

DAVID HILTBRANDDeader Than Disco, Killer Solo, Dying to Be Famous

DAVID TUCKERLate for Work; Days When Nothing Happens

LUCINDA FLEESONWaking Up in Eden: In Pursuit of an Impassioned Life on an Imperiled Island

 

 

 

To misquote Bogie in Deadline USA, “You hear that Norcross? Those are the presses. You can’t do anything about them.”

Though focus groups from George will no doubt “prove” that architectural critic is not a reader-friendly staff position, Inqa proves it is, and that my friends is the difference between hack political bosses, data, and good, artful journalism.

(Reposting:
Casablanca, Content and The Philadelphia Inquirer: How George Norcross Damages Editorial Quality
Posted: February 10, 2014 in Contemporary Commentary
5
“The key to good content,” Michael Bloomberg told me years ago, before he was mayor, “is the ability to write Casablanca.”

Frump
“You can aggregate all the data you want about World War II, Northern Africa, gambling and the underground, but you can’t copy Casablanca.”

The context for that long ago meeting was a content exhibition where my employer at the time, a bond rating agency, feared Bloomberg would get into their business. He would not, he said, because the company essentially was the Casablanca of bond raters and did something Bloomberg could never match.

Local and regional newspapers, if they are to succeed, need to be focused on creating the conditions that create Casablanca. They don’t need to do that on a daily basis, but the readers need to know they can count on it frequently enough. The newspaper, to add value, must present something that no other local weekly or monthly magazine can.

All of which is a roundabout but necessary way to explain why the fight among owners at The Philadelphia Inquirer is not just about “business” – as most writers have suggested – but about the quality of the paper.

Part-owner George Norcross, a good businessman who is also a self-acknowledged ruthless boss of South Jersey Democrats, has proposed a number of “reforms” to the newspaper that he believes will place it back on a solid financial situation.

He has over the past year closed down the op-ed page, insisted that five top editors be fired and replaced with seven New Jersey reporters, placed his young rookie daughter more or less in charge of a free website, and sought to dismiss the top editor, Bill Marimow, and the city editor, Nancy Phillips.

If only the newspaper follows this good business plan, he has said, then the paper will regain a robust financial standing and serve as a valuable “fourth estate” in the plan by giving the readers what they want.

Norcross
In a brilliant bit of sleazy but successful channeling of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater, he also has flipped the debate of the recent controversies by putting Marimow and Phillips in the dock for somehow “meddling” in the newsroom. Of course, if you are running the newsroom, it’s hard to say how your best editorial judgments comprise “meddling.”

Through leaks and innuendo, though, Norcross has taken his opponents’ strengths and positive motives and turned them into something dark and suspect. Largely this is because the local media outlets can’t help but swallow the seductive story line without examination or counterbalance. Largely, it’s been salacious and self-parodying as writers have focused on tangential affairs of an excellent woman journalist whose success and power, apparently, must be consigned to that same dangerous feminine libido of great Tea Party concern. The local stories, in various forms, all seem to somehow suggest Phillips is a seductive witch who twists men around her little figure.

That’s nonsense of course. She just sends them to jail when they kill people. She’s a great investigative reporter. But I’ve covered that before.

What is not so clear to readers is how exactly Norcross’s businesses plan infringes on editorial quality and presents ethical concerns.

I can help you there. I’ve run newspapers, both editorial and business side. I’ve published magazines. I’ve been creating and hawking websites since 1996. Still am. I know a little bit about this.

So let’s go back in time – not far back in time – and see what sort of “Casablancas ” The Inquirer has written. And not far back in time mind you. Let’s say March 25, 2012, and the story: “

Powerful Medicine: How George Norcross used his political muscle to pump up once-ailing Cooper Hospital.

The piece is a classically good piece of investigative and analytical reporting where the two authors take a look at the Norcross machine in motion. Even-handed and fair, the article details how a hospital has fueled Norcross’s political steam roller and it reads a little like a sub-plot of All the King’s Men, where a fictional Huey Long both creates and then distorts institutions of good to his ends.

Born at Cooper, Norcross is unabashed in his enthusiasm for the hospital that he sees as performing vital medical, economic, and social roles. He also sees it as crucial to the rebirth of the city.

He adds: “I’ve come to see that Cooper’s interests and Camden’s are inseparable.”

But there’s something else that is inseparable – Norcross’ political muscle and Cooper’s agenda. In some ways, the hospital has become another piece of his political apparatus, to the mutual benefit of Democrats and Cooper.

In politics-drenched New Jersey, it’s not unusual for hospitals, with their big payrolls, big budgets, and big thirst for government money, to be political players. But few play the game as aggressively or with as much firepower as Cooper.

No other nonprofit hospital in New Jersey spends so much on lobbyists. In fact, it ranks among the top 25 nonprofit hospitals in America for lobbying expenditures according to national data.

With $775 million in annual revenue, Cooper is the largest hospital in South Jersey. And over the years, firms with ties to board members or those with a pattern of donations to Democrats in Norcross’ base of Camden County have won millions of dollars in hospital-related contracts, public records show.

Among those working at Cooper in recent years: Norcross’ insurance business and the law firm of his brother.

None of this is illegal. But the flow of campaign donations from firms doing business with the hospital has helped sustain Norcross’ Democratic organization, which over the last two decades has not only established control in towns and counties in South Jersey but has also become a driving force in the state capital.

To pull off this type of story – informative, insightful, fair – you need experienced editors and reporters. And when you do it, you gain the eyes and ears of readers, not just in South Jersey but also across that state and Philadelphia as well.

Cut those experienced editors and reporters, or reassign them to the chicken-dinner circuit in South Jersey and you l

ose the advantage of Casablanca coverage. You lose your distinction.

This is so because of the truth of an old adage in marketing strategy: The deciding factor in a battle between a grizzly and crocodile is terrain. Or in this case, the battle between one big grizzly and a hundred smaller crocs.

The Inquirer cannot go into the swamps of micro-local coverage and expect to win a battle against the myriad array of local publications and websites, even if it executes wonderfully on its local coverage.

The local publications — the hundreds of little crocs — own this space. I’ve seen it tried time and time again, by The Philadelphia Bulletin, with its hyper-local editions; by The Inquirer, with its well-done “Neighbors” sections; by The Washington Post most recently as it gave almost block-by-block coverage of its surroundings.

The big grizzlies emerge from the swamp with a dozen crocs hanging from their ears, noses and mouths, their tails between their legs and and nothing else to show for it.

At weeklies and “Patch-like” web sites, low rate ads and free subscriptions support a low-paid staff of stringers and hobbyists. Small weeklies are inherently adapted to that biosphere. But big metros can’t run in that terrain. Even if they are changed in how they gather and present news, they never will obtain that level of local readerships imitating their smaller adversar

The past thirty years gives the lie to any such strategy.

So if hyper-local journalism for metros has been thoroughly disproved, why is Norcross so vigorously following it? Is he actively attempting to undermine good investigative reporting, or just dumb about the business history of newspapers?

My guess is the latter, but the former comes hand-in-hand by his mere presence. His reputation for succeeding at all costs, makes me think he thinks he is actually steering the business in the right direction. He is also acting with the impulse of a politician who has run some masterful campaigns using regional marketing.

But many of those campaigns have been negative attack ads, aimed at a short-term goal of turnout on one Election Day. Every day is election day when you are in the newspaper business and readers vote you up and down each day. He does not seem to grasp that, having not run positive campaigns for a real product or service, just “rip your face off” framing of politicians.

Through his misunderstanding of the business of publishing, then, he is demoting quality Casablanca coverage to chicken-dinner coverage in South Jersey.

But beyond that business shortcoming is the political advantage of demoting such coverage: No more stories on Norcross. No more stories on his political allies. And no more stories like that on his nominal political opponents, who he also needs to deal with. (Norcross was thought to have made a general cease-fire political deal with Republican Chris Christie; at the very least, Norcross did not oppose him vigorously during the last election.)

That is the biggest conflict here, one touched gently upon (but admirably enough) by a Philadelphia Magazine story by Steve Volk.

Norcross is the conflict, because he is one of the biggest stories in the region. He can’t possibly run the business (through factotum publishers) without placing the paper in conflict.

But he is.

And the manner in which he is running that business will only drive The Inquirer more deeply into the ground.

We’ve covered the trap of hyper-local journalism, where you jettison Casablanca coverage for a vague promise of local ads and readers already owned outright by established local papers.

Then surely, as he has promised, Norcross’s reinvented plan for the web will save the day – and allow a strong editorial presence.

Again, his inexperience in the business stands out.

Two newspapers seem to have found the right formula for online: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Both do it through this formula:

They know and respect the fact that Casablanca type coverage is essential and core to their business.
They allow free browsing of their websites.
But the “free” goes only so far and is “metered” so that at five or ten stories a flag pops up for the month and says please subscribe.
This has popped revenues for the two publications, but the results also pose a serious warning to others. The “pay wall” works but only to a point. It does not come close to repeating the old magic formula where ads paid the freight for the whole enterprise.

Nancy Phillips
New types of “native advertising” are needed, as are events and memberships. And most importantly: a very strong print product.

Compare the Norcross strategy, which is an inferior version of an already failed and disastrous plan by The Boston Globe: Run two websites, one free and one pay-walled and present two distinct faces of your product to the public.

Bill Marimow
In the real world, this means that Philly.com exists as the free “link-bait” driven, tarted-up face of The Inquirer and Daily News, while the real websites of the two publications, with more suitable demeanors, lay behind a formidable pay wall, without any sort of metered introduction, and no promotions.

The result?

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer home page – the real Inquirer – gave an update on the 16,000 still without power in its region.

Philly.com told you about an app that allowed you to hook up with fellow fliers and have sex in the bathroom.

The strategy there is based on long ago tactics of pumping up page hits. The airplane sex blog is a quick redo of what is trending on search engines or Twitter and repeated on Philly.com in hopes that more search engines will find Philly.com and present more pages so that automatic web ad placement services will through a few micro-cents toward Philly.com. (766,361 other mentions of this app were present on Google at this writing, to give you a feel for the near infinite pit of competition Philly.com casts itself into.)

The problem with that should be self-evident to any marketer or economist. When you commoditize your news in such a manner, you remove your value proposition. You’ll always be running in tenth or twentieth place in rankings, drain your local value, and be assigned low-rent “belly fat” ads.

Worse, such web ad rates have plunged into the basement and below in recent months, as algorithms grow crueler and crueler to such pretenders.

And thus does the Norcross strategy consume itself.

He wants to fire Bogey and Bergman– and hire a few more extras. His strategy decreases the chances that the Inquirer will write its local versions of Casablanca, lowers the editorial quality, and undermines the revenue base in one deft and utterly complete misunderstanding of the business.

My guess is this will be a shock to him.

He is used to being the smartest guy in the room. And perhaps he has been.

But it’s never been this big a room. Or this type of room. And he’s never had this spotlight.

He’s put himself in a place where he can’t be the victor, even if he succeeds in winning the court battle.

George Norcross, the ultimate ‘can do’ guy, has put himself in a can’t win situation.

One hopes The Inquirer will write a big Casablanca of a story about that someday. That is, if Norcross does not succeed in turning a once grand newspaper into a South Jersey shopper.

Steve Volk in Philadelphia Magazine certainly moves the ball and establishes a high mark for reporting on the issue.

There’s still a fascination with Nancy Phillips as the dragon lady in this opera, which I feel is over wrought, but the examination in this article is worth the read and it’s good to see the coverage take on more depth and seriousness.  Certainly, he has dug more deeply into Norcross’s nastiness.

cropped-Volk0152

Steve Volk

The one problem Volk and everyone else covering the issue seems to have is: Source Club.  The leaked emails from Phillips came from somewhere and it does not take much imagination to suggest that either Bob Hall and George Norcross have crossed an ethical line, perhaps a legal line, in leaking these to Volk and others. 

But having received the emails, Volk can’t really write about that particular nefarious Norcross tactic, cause he would burn his source.  It’s a dilemma with which I’m not unsympathetic.  Any decent news person faces it.  The trick is not to be controlled by such leaks.  Somewhere down the line, Volk, who seems indeed to be a fair-minded journalist, needs to do a piece or blog on the overall Norcross campaign.  He can do that without blowing out his sources.  Just list all the damned leaks to all the damned media outlets over the last six months and point out they could not have happened without some official sanction from Bob Hall and the Norcross team.

My other nits on the Volk piece.  Three parts might have been fleshed out more. The chronology of escalating web conflicts of Philly.com parallel Norcross’s conflict with Marimow. And two: the horrid web strategy that Norcross is following, an inferior and lamer version of the Boston Globe, which has been a disaster, all at a time when web ad rates are crashing.  The savior of the paper will not be digital.  (Politico.com makes its money from ads in a D.C. paper version and from events and sponsorships.)
As to focus groups, those of us who have served on the biz side of publications know how laughable those can be. You can walk those anywhere you want and interpret them anyway you want.  Volk hints at this, but it’s worth a deeper dig.

Volk is right of course that the conflict of owners here is not sustainable. I think he and others covering the issue  still suffer from a sort of false objectivity here though by suggesting that Katz and Phillips somehow are equally to blame with Norcross.  There is an implication in the Volk story that Katz may somehow have finessed coverage of casinos in which his grandchildren had some interests, but it’s a very far reach.  As is the old canard of some funeral director claiming Katz told him it was okay to run someone’s obit in the paper.

From all that I can see, we are better off believing Norcross’s own words. He is the guy, as he says in Volk’s story, with the black hat.
I’d just like to see that and his web business incompetence in a story lede sometime rather than the overdone fascination with the affairs of heart of Nancy Phillips, who seems to me to be acting in the best interests of news, certainly not herself, in my humblest of opinions.

More than 70 years ago, Charles Lederer adapted the Ben Hecht classic The Front Page to place a woman in the role of Hildy, the best reporter in Chicago. Rosalind Russell burst into the newsroom opposite editor Cary Grant and what was not to like? She was smarter than the guys and so career focused she couldn’t leave the job.  Her wisecracks get incorporated into modern day news dramas like HBO’s Newsroom.   His Girl Friday  Would it be that all men writing about news women would have done so well.

Two notable news stories about Philadelphia news women and their love lives emerged this month, and they illustrate the gulf separating the good, the bad and the stupidly ugly.  One is the most remarkable nonfiction piece I’ve read in years.  The other marks another low tide in the coverage of The Philadelphia Inquirer ownership squabble, where the boys on the bus can’t seem to focus on issues, so enamored are they with cheap scoops and tales of the boudoir. First the good news.

sl_price

S.I. Price

Sports Illustrated writer S.I. Price writes in the January 20 edition of the magazine one of the most moving non-fiction pieces I’ve read in a long time as he dissects the career of the late Richard Ben Cramer, and his relationship to Inquirer editor Carolyn White.

Richard Ben

Cramer

The “news hook” to A-Rod is tenuous, and no, I don’t think A-Rod “defeated” Richard Ben. Cancer did that. Still, the heart of the story catches the furious sweet energy of Richard Ben and the epic love affair and creative collaboration with Carolyn. And the author does it in a very short space with no words wasted. The story has far less to do with sports and everything to do with two champions of literary non-fiction and the tumultuous lives they led. It’s tender, triumphant, sad, respectful and invasive all at the same time. For me, it only places both Richard Ben and Carolyn on a higher pedestal These folks gave it their all, flat out, with no compromises. Comes now the bad news.  And compromises.  Boy, are there compromises.

nancy phillips

Nancy Phillips

Philadelphia Magazine’s Steve Volk falls for a leaked private email and seems intent on  attaching a scarlet letter — again– to City Editor Nancy Phillips who has been the known companion to owner Lewis Katz for quite some time now. One assumes the email was obtained and leaked through the forces of or sympathizers with George Norcross III, an owner at war with Katz. Here’s how Volk reports the story:

Inquirer Ownership Battle:  “Darling … Eliminate the Daily News

According to an email leaked to Philadelphia magazine, Nancy Phillips, as her long-time companion Lewis Katz was contemplating purchasing a controlling interest in the city’s biggest media company, made sweeping recommendations about strategies for turning around the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, including specific executive firings and the possible elimination of the Daily News.

“Darling,” the March 17, 2012 email, from Phillips to Katz, begins.

 “Company needs a new publisher,” she writes.

“Paper needs a new editor.

“Philly.com needs a new leader.

“Daily News has to be seriously evaluated with a view toward possible elimination or curtailment as in a move to the website with pared down staff and a paper product one day a week if at all.”

So there may be nothing wrong factually in this email. Except that there’s nothing much right about it really in the context of the larger issues involved.   If  one were to fully report the conflict, rather than writing about the private email,  one would write about  the leak itself.

It is after all strictly out of the Norcross school of pay-back — a fact so obvious that the “comments” section of the article points it out clearly.

Steve, there’s no denying you’re a good writer and reporter. But I think, like a growing number of people out there you are succumbing to leaks and spins of the vicious New Jersey smear politics being applied to The Inquirer these days. Talk to investigative reporter Alan Guenther about how he and his father were smeared after he did a three part series on George Norcross or activist and former state senator Alene Ammond. South Jersey political boss George Norcross 3d is known to be a past master at “destroying” opponents. He now seems to be skillfully applying machine politics techniques to Inquirer/Daily News internal politics.

Norcross

Norcross

The lede, even this reader knows, is more like this:  “Norcross Continues Smears of Inquirer Journalists.” Instead Philly Mag chooses to go with the titillating but not terribly insightful emphasis on the Katz-Phillips companionship. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little tabloid sleaziness here and there.  In moderation. Even the great A.J. Liebling noted there’s always a “little con” in even the best news articles.

The operative words are “little con.”  And the problem with coverage of the Inquirer conflict is that much of the  media coverage of the squabble seems to have been written by a cartoon wolf who hears that Phillips and Katz are companions.  The reporters gets as far as the word “Darling” — and  the wolf-reporter’s eyes and tongue shoot out, followed by a 360 degree head spin, and steam pours  out the ears.  Stop the presses.  We got a scandal!

You could call such a practice chauvinistic.  You could call it sexist.

But mostly it’s just stupid.  It’s stupid because the fascination with the boudoir misses the true story.  That real story continues to be that George Norcross III is running a campaign against editorial independence at The Inquirer.  He sought to fire Bill Marimow, a two-time Pulitzer winning editor of great skill and integrity, and he has sought to smear Phillips. He has done this through behind the scene leaks, and he’s done it by enlisting formally or informally  the other respectable news media in Philadelphia.

The bigger, more meaningful story is of course that campaign.  It is not the leaked information that is substantive news, it is the fact that the leak was made and the Email obtained.

But here’s why that doesn’t happen. Call it “Leak Club.”

When the reporter agrees to take the cheap story and the cheap leak, he also joins “Leak Club.”  And the first rule of Leak Club is, you don’t talk about Leak Club.

In fact, you can’t.  You’ve offered anonymity to the leaker.  And  on this slippery path of journalism, you no doubt are promised more cheap and routine scandals if you play your cards right and don’t examine the information in too much context.

In such a way do good reporters become part of the Norcross machine.  In such way do “little cons” become one “big con” — on the reporter as well as the reader. 

I’ll give it to him.  Boss Norcross knows his news media moves.  He’s tied up tough reporters who should be writing and blogging about Norcross drawing a noose around Bill Marimow and Nancy Phillips at The Inquirer.  And instead, they’re wittingly or unwittingly helping Norcorss make the rope for two of the best news people in the business.

If Philadelphia Magazine had a broader and more noble purpose, it would forego the routine scoop and the cheap exclusive and go for the larger story.

Marimow

Marimow

In that version, here’s how it plays out.  Nancy Phillips, an investigative reporter of unquestioned skill and integrity, actively promoted upgrading the quality of the editorship by hiring Bill Marimow.  She strongly lobbied Katz to buy a major stake in the newspaper to support good journalism.  She removed herself from any coverage of Katz.

In short, she’s done about everything a good journalist could do to save a good newspaper.  (I think the Daily News idea is wrong, but any business owner would have to consider it.  Otherwise, she is batting 900.)

What would have happened if genders were reversed? If a male editor were married to a companion of a rich benefactor, would there be such a fuss?

It’s hard for me to imagine.  I’m not a big player in the gender equality wars, but I can’t imagine the pile-on of boudoir stories would be quite this heavy.

But I never quite get to that criticism in my mind, because at base the stories do not meet my first filter.  They aren’t really news.  They are titillations.  News involves facts presented in a context where readers may act upon them with affect.  It’s pretty clear that the writers at Phillymag.com  their sights set on a lower form of pseudo-journalism, the kind that tracks Kim Kardashian and pines for some twerky gossip from starlets.

As for their news judgement?  As an old city editor of mine once said, I think it may have be been shot off in the war.

Amid The Philadelphia Inquirer’s battles over editorial integrity, “Big Trial Net” has scored big ink with some of the national news media blogs with coverage that seems to many to be pro George Norcross III and anti-editor Bill Marimow.

Alls well in two sides of a story of course, but it’s not so well that those bloggers like Jim Romenesko who pick up these stories leave out two major facts:

Romenesko

  • The blog is sponsored by one of the most prominent and litigious law firms in the city, one that has sued the Inquirer a number of times.
  • The writer of the blogs, Ralph Cipriano  sued The Inquirer and received a settlement reported in the $3 to $7 million range a few years back.

Is it possible for a blog sponsored by a law firm that sues newspapers written by a writer who actually sued the newspaper to write a fair account of the ongoing affair?
Well, of course, all things are possible.  But for those who pick up this commentary, transparency as to origins of possible points of view and conflicts of interest, would of course be very useful to the reader. Everyone of course can come to his own opinion that way.
Mine?
Even without knowing of the potential conflicts, there seemed something slanted in the reporting to me.
Much of Cipriano’s writing seems to be about settling scores and the relentless selective reporting and observations seems like ax grinding.
For example, when Bill Marimow returns to the newsroom and is greeted with what others news outlets reported was “spontaneous applause,” Cipriano writes:

The memorandum of law said that after Judge McInerney ruled that Marimow had to be immediately reinstated, “Marimow returned to applause and a strong showing of support from the Inquirer’s newsroom.”
Did they expect his underlings to boo him? (Emphasis mine.)

What Cirpriano is writing, in my opinion, is the classic “knockdown” story — the piece that goes against the grain and attempts to show there really is no story here about editorial independence and freedom, that in fact a South New Jersey political boss named George Norcross III, is the real victim and Bill Marimow, a conscientious journalist who has twice won Pulitzers, is the one interfering with the newsroom.  Even applause from his staff is suspect and probably forced somehow by Marimow’s reign of terror (a prospect that is laughable if one has worked with Marimow.)
It is of course a dog bites man story and I’ll give it to Ralph that he is single minded in pursuing such a story, gathering every bit of grist to support his point of view and ignoring or downplaying facts that run counter to his point of view.
For example, the horrid strategy of the Philly.com website, advocated by Norcross and his daughter, Lexie, gets a complete pass, even though it flies in the face of successful trends elsewhere to erect metered, paid sites such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal has done, and even though it seems central to news room interference with actions Philly.com has taken to promote politicians.
Big Trial Net proclaims boldly on its website,

We believe in putting the power of law back in the hands of the people, and that starts with letting the people see inside in their courtrooms. In 2012, we launched BigTrial.net with two award-winning veteran journalists to provide full gavel-to-gavel coverage of the biggest trials in Philadelphia — the best coverage of these cases anywhere, with no editorial restrictions, all free for the public to read. (Emphasis again mine.)

What the law firm, which has specialized in suing The Inquirer in the past, needs to know of course is that “no editorial restrictions” is not the same as good editing.  Sometimes editorial restrictions are good.
When your writer and your sponsoring law firm has a dog in the fight, you might for example give some hints to the reader as to where the barking comes from.

(Disclosures: I worked with Bill Marimow years ago in the City Hall Bureau and for The Inquirer for 10 years.  I am a former investigative reporter, the author of three books, and former Knight Ridder and McGraw Hill Publisher. I am the president and founder of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News Alumni Society.) 

A group with strong ties to one of the policy-making owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer, George Norcross, was a leader in statewide New Jersey campaign donations, according to Politicker NJ.

The web site reported on Thursday that  “a Democratic independent expenditure group known to be aided by South Jersey power broker George Norcross III nearly topped the list of special interest spending in the recent statewide election, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.”

“Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security, a Washington D.C.-based super PAC, spent more than $8 million in legislative races during the recent primary and general elections, according to ELEC’s most recent report. It trails the state’s largest spender, the New Jersey Education Association’s Garden State Forward, which spent nearly $14 million in the gubernatorial and legislative races.”

Critics of Norcross have stated his political activity assures conflicts when he attempts to influence editorial decisions.  He and Publisher Bob Hall were restrained last month from firing Editor Bill Marimow.  Norcross’s daughter, Lexie, runs Philly.com, a fee site that is in competition with Inquirer.com, a paid site.

Read more at http://www.politickernj.com/70010/group-ties-norcross-nearly-tops-list-ie-spending#ixzz2medr8v23
or sign up for a free trial of State Street Wire at http://www.politickernj.com/freetrial

While the owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer battled for control of the editorial soul of the paper last month, most news ops covering the conflict missed the bigger story.

They didn’t just bury the lede here. They blew the headline.
Fortunately I have found it and can reproduce it here:

World’s Wobbliest Web Strategy Wounds Would-be Web Wonkette

The big battle in court was between ownership factions, some of whom supported Editor Bill Marimow and others Publisher Bob Hall.   Hall, it was said, moved aggressively on Marimow at the behest of George Norcross, a Democratic South New Jersey boss and businessman.

Image

What was hinted at but never developed much in news stories was the role Norcoss’s daughter may have played in the confrontation.  She runs much of the web operation called Philly.com, a site that draws on editorial content from The Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, and yet oddly competes with the separate sites run by the paper.

Lexie Norcross is 26 years old, an age that not only does not disqualify her for web czardom and stardom but may actually be a plus.  Web news is after all a young person’s game and she is hardly younger than titans at FaceBook and Twitter.  She could perhaps be the one who forges a great new strategy and solves the riddle of the new business model for newspapers.

She also seems well-intended in life.  One of her profiles says she set out to be a doctor, but detoured and became a critical care technician.

After moving to Philadelphia, Norcross switched gears in her career, volunteering as relocation project coordinator for Interstate General Media, parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com. In that role, she helped lead the company’s move from its Broad Street offices to its current home at Eighth and Market streets. Norcross now fulfills a leadership role at Philly.com, which she considers anopportunity to apply her passion for “raising awareness and continually breaking through the barriers of various social issues, while providing the public useful news, information and diverse opinions.”


We’re not going for snide innuendo here.  She wants to use politics and the media to help people, and most of us who piled into the biz can identify with at least part of that platform.

But now comes the hard part.  How is she doing?

Not so well it would seem.  Or, to give her the benefit of the doubt, the business leaders in general don’t seem to have much of a strategic plan for the web – or at least not one that bears resemblance to the 21st Century.

The web strategy seems to be concentrating on a “free model” at a time when others are finding paid models work better.  Ad rates have cratered and commoditized for free sites while paid sites, or hybrid sites at The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal seem to be working well.

But the company has not really pulled the trigger on paid sites.  Oh, they have them at Inquirer.com and PhiladlephiaDailyNews.com.  But they are not promoted, and more importantly they are not as the Times is “metered” to drive interest with five or ten free stories that entice the reader to digital subscriptions.tippy

The difference between the two sites is striking.
On Inquirer.com today, there’s an insightful story about why the head of the Barnes Foundation is heading to Drexel University, while on Philly.com, Tippy the Fainting Squirrel takes front and center stage.

Tippy, it should be said, is not really a Philadelphia story, just a quick turn of a few paragraphs on a trending You-Tube phenomenon of a narcoleptic squirrel.  The story is designed more to put out hooks on search engines than it is for Philadelphia readers.

The flaw in such a strategy of course is that every other half-baked news organization is as well. The Huffington Post, for example, beat Philly.com to it by a full day and will harvest far more hits than Philly.com.  This means the play really is second and third tranche commodity in terms of value.
What does this gain you?  One of the algorithmic driven ad brokers probably will throw you one of those “Weird Belly Fat Foods” ads at cents on the dollar.  If the strategy were a song it would be Third Rate Romance, Low Rent Rendezvous.

It’s worse this year because in such a commodity game, rates tend to be driven lower and lower as everyone lays out Tippy the Squirrel stories and everyone gets ads that warn of strange foods that cause belly fat.  Only the big link baiters like the Huffington Post and Buzz Feed can make the game work.

The Times, the Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Media and Forbes have created blogs that have the same intent of increasing readership and search engine hits, but they’ve done it in a smarter way with smarter blogs and they are able to command better rates in electronic ads, or at least be treated as first tranche commodity placements.

And they also are able to charge subscriptions.

The company that owns the Inquirer seems to be headed the opposite way.  It’s unfair to blame that all on Lexie Norcross.
On the other hand, the paper circulation of The Inquirer has improved under Marimow’s editorship so ironically, it seems as if Marimow has been good for business.
The web at The Inquirer and its wonkette?  Not so much.

Warring Philadelphia Newspaper Owners Urged to Fix Glaring Website Strategic Flaw

Philadelphia, PA, Dec. 6, 2013 — The President of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Alumni Society today called on the warring owners of the newspapers to collaborate on fixing a major flaw in the company’s business strategy – its broken and embarrassing business model for the web.

“Perhaps the two sides can find some peaceful common ground on this very large, very public problem that is absolutely core to the survival and prosperity of the newspapers,” said Robert R. Frump, who founded and manages the 587-member alumni society on LinkedIn.

“The spectacle of a dysfunctional web strategy with competing sites confusing both readers and advertisers should be a rallying call for the owners to put their differences aside – and just fix it,” Mr. Frump said.  “We are nearly twenty years into the era of the Internet but the company’s web site and strategy seems to date from 1998.”

Factions within the ownership group of The Inquirer have battled in court over whether Editor Bill Marimow, a nationally respected journalist, could be fired by the publisher, Bob Hall.  A court reinstated Mr. Marimow late last month.  The newsroom welcomed Mr. Marimow back with applause while the pro-Hall ownership faction led by businessman and South New Jersey political power George Norcross vowed to appeal the decision.

Lost in the scuffle is the confused state of the Inquirer’s web strategy – an element considered vital to the survival of any modern newspaper.

Today, the newspapers are represented by three different public websites with no clear coordination or apparent strategy.

Philly.com, a free site run partly by the daughter of owner George Norcross, competes with the paid Inquirer.com run by the Inquirer newsroom and the paid PhillyDailyNews.com.  Additionally, both newspapers present a “digital replica edition.”

While it has been common for newspapers to experiment with free and paid versions of websites, only the Philadelphia franchise has created dueling versions at apparent war with each other owned by the same company aimed at the same potential readers and advertisers.

Even more unique, is that the company seems to be doubling down on a “free” model at the worst possible time for such sites.  Digital ad revenues essential for the “free” model have dropped sharply this year because of increased commodity ad placement strategies driven by algorithms.

In fact, the amping up of Philly.com comes as the rest of the newspaper world is strongly moving from free to paid digital subscriptions.  Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have reported strong earnings from paid models.

While the web sites were not directly involved in the court battles, most observers believe the web confusion contributed to editorial quality issues that contributed to Mr. Marimow’s initial firing.

The City Paper, a Philadelphia alternative weekly, reported in October:

Reporters question Philly.com’s editorial decisions, which include writing headlines like “Company gives away vibrators to keep you busy during the government shutdown” and allowing former Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent to advise readers to “stay horny.”

In May, reporters were infuriated when the site announced that Tom Corbett, who is also employed as the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, would write a column for Philly.com. Marimow assigned a story on the decision, which described Hall as calling Philly.com “not bound by traditional newspaper conventions.” Lexie Norcross was quoted as saying, “Considering that the Inquirer and Daily News slam him every day, I think it’s actually equal, giving him a chance to speak.” 

“Missed in the coverage of the court case and all its allegations are the real shortfalls on the business side,” Mr. Frump said. “The company does not seem to have steady business leadership or a modern strategic sense of direction – let alone any real feeling for the necessity of editorial quality in the product.

(Robert R. Frump is speaking here as the founder and president of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Alumni Society, and his remarks represent his opinions only.  Mr. Frump, a former reporter for The Inquirer, has served as publisher of Knight Ridder, Inc., and McGraw Hill publications as well as heading up advertising sales departments.  He was a co-founder of Medialink, a successful venture capital startup. He has led electronic publishing and major web implementations at Standard & Poor’s and served as Editor in Chief of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. He has received the Gerald Loeb Award and, with Tim Dwyer, the George Polk Award.  He served as a member of an Inquirer Pulitzer Prize-winning task force and has written three books.)

Okay, I’ve read all of the stories and blogs tsk-tsk-ing the conflict, and tutt-tutt-ing the horrible situation that has resulted in two owners in gridlock and the poor readers suffering over The Philadelphia Inquirer court battles.

Are you kidding me?

If this had happened in Egypt, we’d be tweeting about the journalistic spring.

Are journalists so hard-headed and battered that they don’t see the one journalistic insurrection when it strikes them in the face? Where, among dozens if not hundreds of failing or failed or ethically depleted newspapers, one editor, a newsroom and a couple of millionaires actually fought back to support good ethical standards?

The stock story focused on court room battles, intriguing companions, 26-year-old relatives running websites and the politically connected.

I’d submit it is more like this:

The traditional newspaper management that got newspapers into the mess they are in now proposed more of the same.  Essentially, the play was all too well known to those of us in the business.  Cut the payroll by firing senior editors, hire cheap young reporters to crank out copy in New Jersey, and probably throw out chum and link bait from Philly.com to plump up the online numbers.  Jettison local columnists and op ed articles, too.

At the same time, run two separate web portals — one paid; one free.  Put the young daughter of a politically connected owner in charge of the free one and begin running politically favorable coverage on the free portal.

Then, in classic old publisher style, if your plan isn’t working, fire the editor.  Blame the content, not a business plan that is so flawed that it has  has the arc and prospects of an ingrown toenail.

The problem here is that the editor they sought to fire is Bill Marimow, who may be the toughest, fairest news person alive today.  He fought it, as did those in the newsroom who support the idea of good journalism.  Remarkably, so did some of the millionaire owners who filed suit against the pols.

There is a wonderment among many as to why Bill Marimow did this.  It is probably short term.  His contract and protection runs through April.  There’s no money in it for him.  Or at least no incremental advantage.  He would be paid regardless.

But he chose to fight.  And while I’ve not talked to Bill about this, I am pretty sure why he fought.  It’s not about old style journalism or new style journalism.  It’s about drawing a line in the sand for just practicing journalism — for as best as we can in an imperfect world to say that you can by god take a shot at reporting what is happening the world in a manner that allows your readers to make decisions based on it with affect.

It is about the Fourth Estate.

Fire the five editors and Marimow, others have said, and who cares if the news continues to be gathered with integrity. And that’s the point.  The integrity part.  Because it is lost.  Hire a bunch of bloggers in New Jersey and have them turn out lists of Five New Jersey Twerking Hot Spots and you may have a viable web site.  You do not have a newspaper.  You do not have a Fourth Estate.

No newspaper today survives without the integrity of a good news operation, of good people performing a public service in trust with its readers.  Lose that pro bono notion, and you lose the business.

That is what is at stake at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  That is what Marimow is fighting for.  That is what most of the writers and bloggers covering this are missing.

Over the past decade of newspaper despair and disaster, many fine and able editors resigned or were fired as the business folks “thinned the soup,” cut pages, and raised prices.  All well and good.  But how many editors have taken this sort of action?  How many have sued to remain as editor of a besieged and beleaguered newspaper?

Damned few by my count.

It’s time for journalists to stop wringing their hands about The Philadelphia Inquirer and call it for what it is:  the one time in modern history where an editor stood up for what was right.  And it appears, won.

Let’s hope that the readers of The Philadelphia Inquirer rally behind the rag.  Let’s pray this is not a beau geste, but the start of a civic reconnection with one of the most important elements of community and democracy.  Let’s hear it for Bill and the other brave souls of The Inquirer.